Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Gran Canaria Lopesan Open Tips

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I was delighted to see 70/1 selection John Catlin eventually get over the line last week in Austria on the 5th extra hole of a topsy-turvy play-off. Such are the fine margins of this game that the title could quite easily have gone to a spirited Max Kieffer, however thankfully for us that wasn’t the case as the American notched his 10th global win in the past 4½ years. There’s an awful lot to like about Catlin’s demeanour and stoicism under pressure, and as he heads ever closer to a place in the OWGR top 50, it will be fascinating to see how he fares in some higher grade events in the future.

On to this week we go then and with the PGA Tour hosting their annual pairs competition at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, this week’s European Tour event takes centre stage for our coverage.

With a third event tagged onto the announced 2-week Canary Island Swing following the cancellation of the Open de France in a fortnight’s time, many of this week’s field will enjoy 3 weeks of pleasant golfing weather following the brutally cold conditions in Austria last week.

Antoine Rozner heads this week’s field at a general 14/1 following his second win in just 7 starts last month at the Qatar Masters. Matthias Schwab (20/1) will be looking to continue the good run of form that’s seen him finish 7th on each of his last 2 starts, and below him we have the likes of Andy Sullivan and Sam Horsfield who are both post-lockdown winners. Local favourite Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who was born here on the island, rates a 28/1 shot despite having failed to break the top 30 on his last 7 outings globally.

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Course Overview

Meloneras Golf is our host for this week and is a resort course aimed at the tourist trade first and foremost. Designed by Ron Kirby and opened in 2006, this will be the first tournament of significant note to be played around these parts, and as such there are no course history stats or results to study this week.

With the Canarian mountains as the inland backdrop and the Atlantic Ocean flanking a number of holes on the back 9, the course is visually stunning. The front 9 is slightly inland with the holes flanked by palm trees, before the track heads towards the coastline and becomes more exposed and susceptible to the omnipresent breeze. The greens are Paspalum-based, which is a common feature in this part of the world.

There are 4 sets of tees for this test and for the tourist trade it can play up to 6,500 yards for its par of 71, allowing it to cater for players of all abilities. It looks like there will be no major changes to the fundamental routing and length of the course given the timescales afforded to the organisers for this event, and as such we should expect a short, attackable layout that is reportedly playing as a 6,503 yard, par 70.

Tournament Stats. This is the first European Tour event to be played on this week’s track so there’s no prior course or event history to review this week: Current Form | First Round Leader Stats

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here.

As a year-round destination for golfers, the Canary Islands tend to offer pleasant conditions for players and this week is no exception. Dry with sunny spells is the order of the day with temperatures nudging towards 70 Fahrenheit in the afternoons. A fairly constant 10-15mph breeze is forecast, however the exposed nature of the coastal holes will likely accentuate that a little this week on the back 9.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

With no course or event history to peruse and precious little information about the track itself, we’re playing something of a guessing game this week.

What we do know is that this is a short resort course that will be scoreable for the professionals. A coastal breeze will attempt to keep the players honest, however that breeze doesn’t look overly strong at the time of writing and with decent quality Paspalum greens I’d expect some low scoring this week.

The stark difference between last week’s test in Austria and this in terms of difficulty and temperatures will make for an interesting scenario, with many of those making the journey needing to make a quick – and undoubtedly welcome – adjustment to their games.

My selections are as follows:

Sam Horsfield 2pts EW 25/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

John Catlin became the first three-time post-lockdown winner last week in Austria and Sam Horsfield could quickly follow his example this week in Gran Canaria.

Whereas Catlin has excelled on tougher tracks and in tougher conditions, Horsfield’s duo of successes have come on more free-scoring layouts where birdies and eagles are the order of the day, as opposed to grinding out pars. With both his Hero Open and Celtic Classic wins coming at 18-under, this week should be right up the Englishman’s alley.

The key to Sam’s victories in August, which came just 2 weeks apart, was to maximise birdie opportunities with a field-leading 25 red numbers made at Forest of Arden before he produced 22 birdies and an eagle a fortnight later in Wales. Last week’s 26 birdies was 4 better than his nearest challenger and with generally more scoreable conditions expected this week in the Canaries, the 24 year-old could produce a seriously low total here.

Fact is, Horsfield has been warming up for more silverware for the past few weeks now. 8th at the Kenya Open saw him find his long game, ranking inside the top-20 for both SG Approach and Tee-to-Green; the week after it was his putter that took centre stage as he finished 3rd on the same track and topped the SG Putting charts. 15th last week was due to a slow start more than anything, and having made the cut on the number he progressed smoothly over the weekend to set himself up for a strong performance here this week.

A little onshore breeze won’t bother the Manchester lad who’s finished 4th at the perennially breezy track that the European Tour use in Perth, plus 7th at the Vic Open last year was also in gusty conditions.

Seeing the ball falling into the cup is likely to be key this week and with 5 of his 8 rounds in Kenya being 66 or better, combined with last week’s attacking display on a course that demands a more measured approach, this week should set up far better for Sam to complete his hat-trick of European Tour titles. RESULT: 4th

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Kurt Kitayama 2pts EW 28/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

If the rationale for backing Sam Horsfield is all about attacking intent and red numbers on a short, resort course, then supporting Kurt Kitayama comes with a different set of reasons, based far more on his past performances on courses that could correlate well to this week’s task.

Meloneras Golf promises to be a scoreable, coastal track set with Paspalum greens and good courses to consider for correlating results would be the European Tour’s stop-offs in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Mauritius, and in those latter two events we find that the American has won on both layouts. Add to that a 12th place finish at the Saudi International in strong company earlier this season and 9th in Qatar – which is also set to Paspalum at its current venue – and this week’s task would seem to set up nicely for the 28 year-old given those efforts.

1st for SG Tee-to-Green in Qatar was positive for a player whose long game went off the boil following lockdown, and he repeated that statistic the following week in Kenya when finishing runner-up to Justin Harding.

We can forgive him a missed cut a few days later on the same track given that close call, and last week’s 15th place finish in Austria sets him nicely here on what should be an altogether more compatible test for the Californian. RESULT: MC

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Jorge Campillo 1pt EW 100/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

A duo of Spaniards at longer prices complete my team this week. Firstly I’m taking a chance on Jorge Campillo for much the same reasons as Kitayama, however we’re getting almost 4 times the price on the Caceres man if he can find some of the form which we know he’s well capable of.

Season-long form of 34/MC/MC/67/MC before capturing his 2nd European Tour title on the Paspalum greens of Education City in Qatar last year tells us that he doesn’t need to be in sparkling form to find the winning combination. Although this year is hardly any better with form of MC/MC/MC/28/MC/MC, those two most recent weekends off have been close affairs, both featuring rounds of 68, and he’d opened with a round of 67 when defending in Qatar to sit inside the top-10 after the first round, so perhaps all is not lost.

History-wise, I’m struggling to shift him for this test. Aside from his Qatar victory on similar grasses, he’s also finished 2nd and 4th in Oman on a fairly compatible track to this week’s task and as a middle-length hitter these shorter setups suit far better than those that are overly stretching from off the tee.

The 34 year-old’s record on home soil is impressive too, with 6 top-10 finishes at all levels in Spain and two top-20 finishes at Valderrama on his last 2 attempts. The more exposed nature of this layout, particularly on the second 9, is much more compatible with Jorge’s game than Valderrama and he could surprise a few here this week. RESULT: MC

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Alejandro Canizares 1pt EW 140/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Whereas a bounce back to form may be a surprise for Jorge Campillo, at a slightly longer price it would less of a surprise in my mind to see Alejandro Canizares continue his progressive recent form of 20th/7th with another decent outing here.

The very early – and fleeting – 200/1 about the Madrid man for this week was plainly wrong seeing as he’s led after round 1 of each of his last 2 outings and kept that form going for 3 rounds last week in Austria before eventually fading on Sunday.

For a player far more used to playing in amenable golfing conditions, I was surprised to see Canizares stick around for as long as he did in Austria, and it’s a testament to how well he’s playing that he still managed to grind out a 7th place finish. His typically strong putting was evident pretty much throughout, however it was his long game – 6th for Total Driving and 6th for Ball-Striking – that he was most positive about in interview and that’s noteworthy for a player who’s so strong with the flat stick in hand.

This week of course will be far more comfortable for the 38 year-old and with positive past results on the Paspalum/Coastal combination in Oman (6th, 2020) and on the sub-7,000 yard layout in Agadir, where he won the second of his European Tour titles in 2014, he should be looking forward to this week’s test. RESULT: T38

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:40BST 19.4.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.